Killarney, Kenmare and the Ring of Kerry

Sooooooooo... after months of quietness here on the blog, here I go picking up where my trip blog entries left off.  Lol as usual, I'm going to apologize for falling behind, but honestly, this time there really wasn't a choice!  Despite my best intentions, once I left Cork, I was never in any one place for longer than a week at a time... which seems like a good amount of time but really isn't when you think about all the sightseeing you want to do in each place.  So I turned the iPad off, let the trip take over, and promised I would share it with you all once I got home.  Let's pick up where we left off, shall we?  

Killarney, Ireland was my next stop after Cork.  And while on my original itinerary I was only going to Killarney once for 5 days, things changed a lot for me along the way and I ended up going twice.  For the sake of not repeating similar posts, I have decided to combine those two times and my Ring of Kerry photos into one post.  I drove the Ring of Kerry twice with different friends, so you'll notice those two sets of photos down below.

 

I was lucky enough to have a few friends visit from the states, and the first of those friends arrived to Cork on my last weekend there.  We hung out in Cork for a night, went to a really cool Titanic commemoration in Cobh for the 101st anniversary of its sinking, headed off to kiss the Blarney Stone and spend way too much money at Blarney Woollen Mills (a must-do, in my opinion, if you're heading to Blarney), and arrived in Killarney the next night... Monday, April 15th.  Obviously, that's a date that we will all remember forever now... and I won't rehash what that night and the rest of that week were like for me in Ireland.  You can read about all the crappy stuff that happened that week on the previous post.  For the sake of this post, I will only talk about the good.  Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back on it now, even though all I wanted to do was go home, I know how lucky I am to be where I was and how it was kind of fate that I ended up staying.  But more on that later...

 

Having Caty in Killarney with me for the first night was great, and we were unbelievably lucky with the weather when we did the Ring of Kerry the next day.  Almost every day in Ireland, it rains.  If it's not raining when you wake up, you can be sure it's going to be raining that afternoon.  If it's raining in the morning, usually the afternoon is clear.  And then of course there are the days where it just rains straight through :)  But this particular day, I think the weather gods were realizing we needed a break, and so we had a gorgeous day all the way through and a gorgeous drive around the Ring of Kerry.  Seriously, people tell you all the time how beautiful it is, and anytime I was telling people I was going to Ireland they would ask if I was going there.  BELIEVE THE HYPE, people, because this is one of the best drives you'll ever take in your life.  Of course, the view is a little different for the passenger, who doesn't have to deal with the tiny, narrow, swerving roads with hardly any guardrails to protect you from certain death, but I digress...

 

I stayed at an adorable little B&B called the Mystical Rose my first 5 days in Killarney, run by a woman named Noreen who was quite possibly out of her mind.  I say that in the most loving way possible :)  She was very sweet and kept her B&B spotless but she was as eccentric as anyone I've ever met... which was fine because I was semi- crazy that week too.  I mean, she made me ride her pet donkey.  Not that I really objected, because it was one of the most hilarious things I've ever done in my life, but the fact that she had pet donkeys behind her B&B just kind of proves my point about being eccentric right?  I also got to meet up with my friend Lisa's cousins Kieron and Cathal, who were good enough to take me hiking and to their house for lunch, where their mother showered me with tea and cookies and sandwiches until I couldn't eat anymore.  Irish hospitality was definitely at a high around Killarney, and that was one of the reasons I fell in love with it.  Before I went, people in Cork would kind of make fun of me, and say "Oh, you Americans and Killarney.  You just love it!" and every Irish person within a 50 mile radius would call it a tourist trap.  At first that turned me off and I wasn't sure what to expect from Killarney, but seeing it, I realized tourist trap just means they go the extra mile to make it appealing for tourism, and so it's clean and pretty and well-kept, with great shops and restaurants and friendly people.  All of that is enough reason to go, but when I saw the lakes, that was it.  Killarney reminds me SO MUCH of Vermont, and we all know how much I adore Vermont.  It was a win win :)

 

Since my first couple of days in Killarney were kind of a wash, I really tried to make the last 2 or 3 the best I could.  Unfortunately, the weather was really bad... pretty torrential the whole week.  It did manage to clear up long enough for me to pay a RIDICULOUS amount of money to go on a jaunting car.  Seriously... my one piece of advice for Killarney is to haggle with these people as much as possible, because I later learned that I was really really overcharged.  On the flip side, I did have quite a great ride and I was able to convince the jaunting car driver to take me way out past his normal route, because I didn't have a car at this time and didn't have another way to get where I wanted to see.  We went through Killarney National Park to the Muckross House and Muckross Abbey, out to the Meeting of the Waters, and back by the Torc Waterfall.  It ended up being a four hour trek and so it was a great way to pass the day, but again- HAGGLE.  I could have purchased a time share in Ireland for what I paid for this jaunting car ride.  Ok not really.  But almost.

 

After my jaunting car experience I hiked out about a mile to Ross Castle, which ended up being one of my favorite castles in Ireland.  It was built in the 15th century and is right on Lough Leane, and it really couldn't be in a prettier spot.  Hiking out there provided some fun as well... I was about 3/4 of my way to the castle, walking through woods with lakes and marshes on either side, and I literally got to a section of the road that was washed out from all the rain; the lake on either side had flooded out the road.  So here I am, sweaty and hot and having gone pretty far already, and all I see is lake on the road, where lake should not be.  Well, thank you Mom and Kate for getting me my Hunter wellies, and thank you me for having the foresight to put them on that morning... I literally waded all the way through the washed out road in my wellies.  And the water literally got to within half an inch of the top of them, but I got lucky, and I was sooooo happy... until I turned the corner...

 

And saw an even larger section of washed out road.

 

Now, at this point, I literally say "WTF" super loud, to absolutely no one, because of course I am alone in these woods.  And I'm standing there trying to figure out what the heck to do, when I hear the klip-klop, klippety-klop of horse shoes hitting the road.  Perfect, I thought to myself.  Most of the time when you see jaunting cars, they only have two or four people in them, so maybe he'll let me squeeze in just to take me over this water.  I stand there and wait, and around the corner comes a jaunting car with EIGHT senior citizens in it.  Like really, this is my luck.  So I stand to the side to let them pass, because obviously there's no way I'm going to fit on, when the driver says "Hop on quick, we'll get you over this puddle!"  I'm all "No that's okay, I can manage" and literally all 9 of them start yelling at me to "Quick!  Hop on the back!"... so I literally run and jump on the back step of the jaunting car.  And that's when the driver hits me with "Nooooooo!  Don't put your weight on the back step!  It's likely to break and you'll smack your jaw on the door on the way down!"  Lovely visual.  So there I am, stuck on the back of this jaunting car, no way to jump off now since we're getting deep in the water, and the driver tells me I'm about to break his jaunting car because I've been eating too much sticky toffee pudding (I can read between the lines, people).  I pretty much had to lean in, with my legs sticking out the back of the car, and my entire upper body hanging in low suspension right over a bunch of velcro sneakers.  The elderly people on the ride thought this was HILARIOUS, and they started snapping photos of me with their cameras.  When we got out at Ross Castle, which was (thank god) very close, I actually asked one of them if she would send me a couple of photos to my email.  I gave up on that idea when she asked me what email was.

 

Ross Castle is also where I learned how truly crazy Irish weather can be.  You know how we have that saying here... "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait five minutes"?  Well, they have the same saying in Ireland... only there, it is literally true.  Weather changes there in five minute increments.  As I said, that day I had taken a jaunting car all morning, and it was on and off sunshine and rain.  But when I got to Ross... wow... I can't even describe it.  Walking around the castle upon first arriving, the weather was BEAUTIFUL.  Blue skies, birds chirping.  It was so perfect that I saw a bench right by the water and thought, I'm going to spend an hour just sitting on that bench and relaxing.  I decided to run and use the bathroom first, which was on the side of the castle by itself.  I was in the bathroom maybe 3 minutes, TOPS.  I come out... and it was like a gale-force hurricane outside.  I'm not kidding when I say the sky was BLACK, the wind was whipping, and there was hail pelting me from the sky.  I took this top picture to commemorate having to stand in the bathroom doorway by myself for five minutes while this passed... the picture below that is what the sky looked like after the hail stopped and I felt safe going outside again...

 

 

Another don't miss in Killarney is the Killarney Lake Hotel.  When Kieron and Cathal picked me up for our hike, we stopped there first for a tea and scone, and it was honestly the most perfect morning I had that entire week.  The sun was out and the Killarney Lake Hotel is off the main road towards the national park, and it literally sits right on the lake.  Your view is lakes, mountains, and ancient ruins of an old fort, the kind you think of when you picture Ireland.  We sat outside, had scones and jam and cream, and just basked in the sun.  It was total perfection.  We actually came back here after a few hours of hiking and driving, and had lunch.  The food is just amazing there, and of course, by the time we returned it was raining and we couldn't sit outside again, but even the atmosphere inside is great, and the entire back wall of the restaurant is windows so you still get the amazing view.

 

Hiking with those boys was a good time... Kieron insisted on showing us a "blue lagoon"  which was actually quite brown... after that we decided to do more of a "car hike".  I made the mistake of telling Cathal that I really, really wanted to hold a baby lamb, and from that moment on the boys were on a mission.  Every time we saw lambs, the car was immediately pulled over and the boys were off, trying to catch me one.  By the end of the week. when Cathal drove me to my next stop, I knew every time the car slowed down that "lamb shopping" was about to occur and to have my camera ready.  Unfortunately they never caught one and I got to hold a lamb through other means, but those boys get an A for effort :)  The picture below is them "lamb shopping" on our way out to the Black Valley and the Dunloe Gap... you can actually get to both of these places right off of the Ring of Kerry, and I would recommend it.  Very barren and beautiful, and at the end of the Dunloe Gap there's a charming restaurant called Kate Kearney's Cottage.  I didn't get to eat there but it's supposed to be great, and all the horse and traps outside waiting to offer rides makes it a very picturesque stop.

 

 

Other don't misses in Killarney:

 

O'Connor's Pub:  I actually met a guy playing music there who toured with Flogging Molly in the states a couple of times.  Bring a dollar bill to write your name on and put on the ceiling... and definitely go here on Sundays for early music sessions.  It wasn't exactly trad, but I heard one of the best acoustic sessions of my life here on a Sunday afternoon, by 3 young guys who looked like they were fresh out of high school.  They were incredible.

 

Courtney's:  I actually went here on a blind date lol.  Date was a bust but Courtney's was a-mazing... has the old Irish pub feel to it, but it was a younger crowd... huge selection of craft beer and Irish whiskies.

 

Molly Darcy's:  Molly Darcy's is actually out in the Muckross Park Hotel, which is out by the national park and Muckross House, so it's not in the downtown area.  But if you're ending a day of hiking in the national park and want to have a drink and a meal, this is the place.  On my last night in Killarney (the first visit), which was a Friday, my house parents from Cork, Sean and Julia, were in Killarney for the weekend and they were staying at this hotel.  I went out and met them for a drink, and Molly Darcy's is absolutely adorable.  Again, old Irish pub feel, with the dark stained wood and gas lamps.  The hotel is beautiful as well... there was actually a wedding going on upstairs while we were there and it looked gorgeous.

 

Muckross House and Traditional Farms:  The Muckross House is actually in the National Park and it is beautiful and well kept, with lots to do around the house as well.  I ended up going there a couple of times.  You could definitely fill up a whole day in Killarney just poking around there.  The Muckross House tour gives you all the information you need to know about the house and about Killarney, the gardens around the house are beautiful, the Muckross Abbey is a quick walk within the park, and the Muckross Traditional Farms are a great way to see how the Irish lived in the days of thatched cottages and open- flame cooking.  There's a cafe and a gift shop, as well as a sweet shop and a craft center.

 

Here are some favorites from Killarney!

 

 

 

 

St. Mary's Cathedral...

 

 

My quirky B&B...

 

 

 

My 4 hour jaunting car ride... P.S. my horse's name was Molly... seems to be a popular name in Ireland!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the back of Muckross House the first time I went, which was the 3rd week of April.  You can see that there isn't much in bloom yet...

 

 

And this is when I went back the second week in May!  The flowers were in full bloom and the color was gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

This is around Muckross Traditional Farms...

 

 

 

 

Obsessed with the blue bells...

 

 

Muckross Abbey...

 

 

 

 

Ross Castle...

 

 

 

Driving through the Gap of Dunloe...

 

 

Caty on the start of the Ring of Kerry...

 

 

Lady's View...

 

 

 

That water... there is nothing like it.  The color is amazing!

 

 

 

My friends Mel and Marc came over to Ireland in the beginning of May, and because I wanted to spend time with them, once they ironed out their itinerary, I changed mine around a little bit too!  I also wanted to go back to Killarney... because of what happened the first time, and because of the weather I had, I decided to go back two days before Mel and Marc were due to arrive and spend another weekend there.  Of course, it rained straight through those two days as well (curse you, Ireland!), but it was still nice to be back there.   I decided to stay a bit closer the second time, as the B&B I mentioned was a bit of a walk out of town, so I stayed right on one of the main streets at the Best Western Eviston House.  It was an absolute perfect location, and the price was as reasonable as a B&B... if I ever go back to Killarney, that is definitely where I would stay.

 

When Mel and Marc picked me up a couple of days later, we headed to Kenmare for a couple nights.  Kenmare is also on the Ring of Kerry, and I hadn't been there yet so I was excited to see a new place.  It is absolutely adorable there, and a place I would love to go back to someday.  Not as busy as Killarney, but the main roads are all colorful and welcoming.  We had two nights of great meals... I mean, seriously, ask Marc Deschamp about the lamb burger, and I'm sure he'd go on all night... and two nights of great music.  What I liked most about Kenmare is that there were a few places that seemed to start music much earlier than I was used to; I had already been in Ireland for two months at this point and I was used to music starting at 10 or 11 every night.  In Kenmare, we got to listen to it while we ate dinner, both nights... which was even more amazing due to the fact that we were there on weeknights.  I was a happy camper!

 

 

 

Ring of Kerry Round 2 with Mel and Marc :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we ended the day with food and live music= thumbs up!  ;-)

 

 

Stay tuned for my next post about my six days in Dingle!